The mission of the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission is to enrich the lives of Burbank residents by celebrating its diverse arts and media community, and to promote Burbank as a vibrant and enticing regional arts center.
The Burbank Cultural Arts Commission meets the 2nd Thursday of every month at 9:00 am at the Community Services Building, 150 North Third Street, Room 104.
Barbara Beckley is Artistic Director and a co-founder of Burbank’s Colony Theatre. In 1993 she received Women in Theatre’s Outstanding Contribution Award, and was the keynote speaker at ShowBiz West’s 1994 West Coast Theatre Expo. She has served on the Peer Review Committees of the Pasadena Arts Council and the L.A. County Arts Commission, and for three years served as President of the Board of Theatre LA (now L.A. Stage Alliance). As an actress, Barbara has been seen in many Colony productions, winning an L.A. Drama Critics’ Circle Award and four Drama-Logue awards.
Monica Groves is a Senior Associate at the XPRIZE Foundation where she manages prize impact and engagement. She has an extensive background in building relationships through grassroots organizing and increasing awareness and involvement, advocacy, and empowerment to bring about effective solutions to health and social justice challenges that face women of color. Monica holds a Master of Arts degree in Media Communications with emphasis in Communications Management from Webster University and has managed community outreach and engagement for several non-profits in the Greater Los Angeles Area.
Monica is a storyteller, writer, facilitator, and activist who has served as Chair of the 2015 Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program (Now RISE) and is currently an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Women’s Symposium of Southern California Advisory Board, and the SexSpeaks Storytelling Collective.
Leah Harrison is a producer with a breadth of arts experience ranging from performance, arts administration, and arts activism. Her career started as an actor on New York and Los Angeles stages. From there she transitioned into stage managing and producing international theater productions. She has produced in multiple disciplines including film, television, theater, and themed entertainment. As a themed entertainment show producer, she has a breadth of experience managing and producing attractions internationally, including acting as Executive Producer for an internationally celebrated parade which included worldwide artist. Ms. Harrison has used her passion for art and community building by working as a volunteer and community organizer for grass roots campaigns and arts organizations. She has a long history of volunteerism with women’s groups around the country. Various companies and organizations with which she has collaborated include Film Independent, FOX television, Warner Bros., Universal, AFI, and Women In Film.
Rajasri Mallikarjuna has been involved with arts advocacy in the Los Angeles area for over two years, serving as Board Secretary of Musicians at Play Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes music education and L.A. musicians. A 2019 Arts for LA Activate Fellow, she also works as an editor for Alfred Music, an educational music publishing company. An artist herself, Raj is a composer of orchestral and chamber music, most recently writing a ballet and contributing pieces to Burbank Chamber Music Society. Originally from the east coast, Raj moved to L.A. in 2011 after receiving degrees from Boston University and Berklee College of Music.
Eric is a writing instructor at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, where he’s previously served as Dean of Students and Chair of the Screenwriting Department. He has over fifteen years of teaching experience, ranging from Graduate Level to youth coursework. He’s also taught for the Writer’s Store, the StarCoach Program in China, the Young StoryTellers, the American Stage Festival and the Animation Guild. You can currently hear him on the bi-weekly podcast The Backlot.
Eric is producing the feature length documentary Aswat Acherim, detailing the unlikely friendships formed across the Gaza / Sderot (Israel) border. His first screenplay Just Enough won a Sloan Scholarship and was accepted into the Hamptons Film Festival Writer’s Lab. Eric’s writing credits include the TV pilot Side Hustle with Hayden Black (HDNet’s Goodnight Burbank) and the screenplay The Mysteries with Robert Gardner (The Wedding Palace). As part of a team with Chad Rocco, Eric adapted the NY Times bestselling young-adult series Vampire Kisses and developed a feature film based on Knotts Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt.
Eric received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania (Go Quakers!) and his MFA from USC (Go Trojans!). He was part of the Leadership Burbank Class of ’17, has served on the LB Alumni Board and is a board member for Burbank Temple Emanu El. A native Delawarean, Eric lives in Burbank with his wife Lauren, their sons Alexander & Judah and dogs Sharkie & Fezzik.
Mary-Elizabeth Michaels is the Director of Community Affairs for Warner Bros. Entertainment. In this role she leads outreach efforts in key regions and manages signature company outreach programs including the Board Leadership Program and the Reach Honorship Program. Mary-Elizabeth has in depth experience working with civic, corporate and nonprofit stakeholders to develop and launch marketing and community engagement campaigns. She is active in the community and has served on a number of nonprofit boards. Mary-Elizabeth is a long time member of the Junior League of Los Angeles where she has held numerous leadership positions and currently serves on the P.S. Arts board of directors. She earned a BA in Government from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, is a graduate of the 2007 Leadership Southern California class, the 2013 Leadership Burbank class and the 2014 Santa Monica Peoples’ Academy.
Cindy Pease is a retired retail executive from a fortune 500 corporation. She served on the Burbank Cultural Initiative Planning Steering Committee for the Arts in 2009/10 and served on the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission since its inception. In 2008, Ms. Pease received the Character and Ethics Project Award with certificates of Recognition from: CA Senator, Jack Scott, CA Assemblyman, Paul Krekorian, Glendale Mayor, John Drayman and Michael Escalante, Ed.D. Superintendent for Glendale Unified School District. She was the former President for Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre for 13 years and now, currently holds the position of Managing Director for The Musicians at Play Foundation, Inc.
Ms. Pease has completed certification required by Los Angeles County Arts committee for inclusion of California State Standards for the Arts in all School Outreach Programs. Being a strong advocate for the classical and performing arts is her goal and to raise public awareness regarding the benefits of arts education and performance while making Burbank a major cultural arts destination.
Suzanne Weerts has been active in Burbank as and arts and education advocate for nearly two decades and serves on the Board of the Burbank Arts For All Foundation. As a writer, she has shared stories on stages across Southern California and has produced and directed six storytelling benefit shows at The Colony Theatre including Listen To Your Mother, Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle, Momnipresent and Manecdotes. With a degree in Speech Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Weerts spent a decade working in marketing and promotions at KCAL-TV and Buena Vista Television and has served as the Assistant Director of the UNC-Hollywood entertainment industry internship program since 2000.
Katherine E. Zoraster is an Art Historian and an Adjunct Instructor of Art History at several local colleges. Among them, she is the Art History Instructor for the full-time program at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts and has recently begun teaching in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through both the UCLA and CSU Channel Islands Extension Programs. Katherine received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles with a double major in English Literature and Art History in 1998. In 2005 she graduated with a Master’s Degree with Distinction in Art History from the California State University at Northridge. She is a long-time Burbank resident and is thrilled to be sitting on this Committee helping to support and encourage the arts in Burbank.
City Council Liaisons
With a 32-year career of dedicated service as a Burbank Firefighter, Jess Talamantes continues to bring a powerful new perspective to the Burbank City Council.
Jess was elected in 2009, served as Centennial Mayor during the City’s Centennial Celebration in 2011 and was named Vice Mayor in 2015. He was re-elected in 2013 and is currently serving his second four year term.
While he spent many years on the frontlines in public safety, he also passionately worked the sidelines as a coach to Burbank’s young athletes. His attention to youth programs and commitment to their success continues to this day through his 2011-2012 Mayoral theme of ‘A Healthy Burbank.’ Some of the initiatives included “Ride a Bike with the Mayor”, The Mayor’s “Healthy Minute” on the Burbank Channel and the “Let’s Move!” campaign in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Jess has also been involved in a number of boards and commissions, including:
League of California Cities - L.A. County Division
Legislative Committee Member
L.A. County Commission on Local Governmental Services Member
San Fernando Valley Council of Governments
Transportation Committee Member
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
Transportation Committee Member
Aviation Task Force Member
High Speed Rail & Transit Task Force Member
Burbank City Federal Credit Union
Board Member - 23+ years
While serving on Council, he also remains an active community member, dedicating his time to youth programs and civic outreach, and has been recognized for the following honors:
City of Burbank Athletic Walk of Fame Inductee
Burbank Top Award for Citizenship - presented by Burbank Temporary Aid Center
A Burbank resident since 1962, Jess is a graduate of John Burroughs High School. He earned his B.S. in Fire Protection Administration and Technology from California State University at Los Angeles.
He is married to Sandy with whom he raised three grown children – Eric, Scott and Kristin.
“Burbank is an extraordinary community with a loyal and dedicated citizenry. I am proud to give back to the City that has enriched my life and the lives of my family.”
- Jess Talamantes
Emily Gabel-Luddy was elected to the Burbank City Council in 2011 but her service to Burbank began a decade ago when she was appointed to the Planning Board. During that time, she also served the community as a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Affordable Housing and the Sustainable Burbank Commission.
Emily was born in Los Angeles and raised in the communities of El Sereno and Glassell Park where she attended public schools. A graduate of Occidental College, she earned a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts.
A professional City Planner, Emily began her career working for local government as a landscape professional designing small parks. After two years, she joined the Planning Department in the City of Los Angeles where she gained over 30 years practical experience working with diverse communities to address a full range of planning and land use issues. In 1990, she received a Loeb fellowship in Advanced Environmental Studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In 1995, the American Society of Landscape Architects recognized her work in planning and design and made her a Fellow of the ASLA.
In her final three years of public service, she established the Urban Design Studio, a project focused on developing planning tools to integrate pedestrian and urban infrastructure requirements in ways to create more walkable neighborhoods. After leaving public service Emily began lecturing at the USC. She and her husband Bill have lived in Burbank for almost 20 years.
"I have a passion for public service and look forward to the years ahead working diligently for the citizens of our great City."
City Council Members
EMILY GABEL-LUDDY, MAYOR
SHARON SPRINGER, VICE MAYOR
BOB FRUTOS, COUNCIL MEMBER
JESS TALAMANTES, COUNCIL MEMBER
TIMOTHY MURPHY, COUNCIL MEMBER